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Manolo for the Big Girl | Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

Francesca loves . . .

French cuffs!

Boots for the Weekend

Look! It is handsome, unique, wide-width boots with straps that make the calf adjustable! Yes! You can widen or tighten the calf as needed for a perfect fit! Genius, and so attractive.

Also available in Bordeaux and Chocolate. Mmmmm . . .

Happy shopping and happy weekend!

xoxo, Francesca

PS Francesca is realizing that just as Plumcake has a closet dedicated to black dresses, Francesca is in need of a shoe closet just for black boots . . . .

You Asked For It: The Duct Tape Push-Up Bra

I learned this little lesson from a couple of Washington, D.C. drag queens back in my plus-size modeling days.

What you will need
duct tape
a towel/ or sweater

First, and I cannot stress this enough. You must use your own rack. Barring that, use that of a willing friend. The best taped plans gang aft a-gley, as our friend Bobby Burns would say, when you try to lift and separate a stranger’s sweatermeat.

Secondly, unless you want your “crowning glories” to pop off like pen caps (is that creepy sounding? That’s creepy sounding right? I’m just trying to be delicate, but I guess that horse left the barn with sweatermeat.) you’ll need a nice fuzzy towel or sweater. You need the fuzzy sweater or towel to reduce the adhesive properties of the duct tape. If you forget to do this, it will End Badly and you will probably die.

Also, you should probably stretch first.

Tear two pieces of duct tape long enough to wrap across your torso from side to side. Place them sticky side down on the towel. These are the foundations of your foundation garment.

Tear two pieces of duct tape long enough to stretch from the underarm to the middle of the chest. These are your “underwires.” Tear each piece lengthwise so you will have four thin strips. Put those on the towel as well.

The assembly of the bra is more art than science, so you may have to winnie around a bit, but here are the general rules of application.

Leaning forward, place one of the long strips along your torso just under the bust line. This should give a bit of a heave to the whole bosom area. If you are applying the tape from the left to the right, lean a bit to the right and then to the left so that the gals are arranged for maximum cleave and minimum splooshy back fat.

Leaning forward and a bit to the left, apply one of the thin strips in a curve from under your arm –where your underwire would go– and pull snugly until the mammary in question is more or less where you feel it ought to be. Repeat for the right.

Apply the second long strip across your torso over and slightly above the first and add the final “underwire” strips in the same method as the first.

This might take a bit of fiddling, and as always, your cleavage may vary. If you’ve got a hard to wrangle rack you may end up using more tape, although, for structural integrity, I would not suggest using less.

To remove: hold the skin taut and peel back. It’s really not painful, as long as you remember to use that towel. Alternatively, take a shower.

Have fun, but be responsible! Oh, and there’s no use asking for a photo essay or diagram. I’m hopeless with a sketch pad and my dog can’t work a digital camera.

Francesca recommends books: Americana, part 1

For the next few weeks, Francesca will be recommending a sprinkling of books that offer windows into the American psyche– little bits of Americana– some delightful, some disturbing, all interesting. We will go in sort-of chronological order by setting (that is, when the book takes place, not when it was written). Here we go . . .

Let Francesca guess: You were assigned The Crucible in high school, but you had a history paper due the same week, and something had to go. So you just showed up for the class discussions, BS-ed your way through, and got a B+ in the course anyway.

The time has now come for you to do what you should have done then! The The Crucible, by Pulizter-winning playwright Arthur Miller, is ostensibly about (to take words from Amazon), “socially sanctioned violence” in colonial America, based on the real events which led to innocent young girls being convicted of witchcraft. In truth the play is a parable for McCarthyism, but it can be enjoyed on both levels. It is a gripping and disturbing read. And pretty short. Do yourself a favor and spend a Sunday afternoon reading it.

Next. No matter how much you love the movie, nothing compares to the original, Pulitzer-prize winning book version of Gone with the Wind. Nothing. Scarlett is so . . .  so . . . deliciously hate-able, and yet we want her to learn, to grow, to survive. Find out about the marriage, and the children, left out from the film . . . go back to  Civil War-era Georgiea with Rhett, with Melanie, with Ashley, with Scarlett . . .

And now, on to Westward Expansion. Laura Ingalls Wilder did us a great service by documenting (and only slightly fictionalizing) her growing-up years on the Frontier, in a series which has since come to be known as “The Little House Books.” Again, forget the television show. Forget everything you think you know about Little House on the Prairie. The show was OK for what it was, but there was very little in the show that was actually based on the books. And also, if you read the books when you were a child, re-read them because so much becomes more clear when you are a grownup. Of course, they are much faster to read when you are a grownup, but many of the nuances of the characters and what they do become easier to pick up.

Francesca’s 2 top picks from the Little House series are Little House in the Big Woods, the first installment, which chronicles Ingalls’ life when she was an extremely small child and her family lived in a log cabin deep in the woods of Wisconsin, and The Long Winter. The Long Winter explains how the Ingalls family survived in De Smet, South Dakota, when it snowed so hard and so long that the residents of the little town ran completely out of food and coal. Only as an adult, re-reading the book, did I understand the gravity and drama of the story, the fact that “Pa” and “Ma” and the other characters are not simply hungry and cold. They are, literally, in danger of starving to death. The episode in which Almanzo Wilder risks his life to try to find food for the town is breathtaking. But I didn’t get that when I was ten.

If you don’t plan to read the entire series, then I might suggest that before reading The Long Winter, you read Little House on the Prairie, in order to come to understand how the Ingalls’ came to live on a homestead outside of De Smet.

Here is a link to a  9 book box set  containing the entire series, for under $30! A great deal!

Finally, if you are a fan of American history, or of food history, or of the Little House books, Francesca highly recommends The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories . As author Barbara Walker explains in the fascinating book and chapter introductions, much of the Little House series is concerned with food: the hunting of it, the preparing of it, and the storing of it. This is because, on the Frontier, food was a major occupation and the Ingalls family had to work hard in order to not go hungry (which they sometimes did anyhow).  The cookbook goes through the foods in the series, many of which come with cooking instructions in the books, and approximates the recipes for modern kitchens. Thus, we learn how to make, among many other things, sour-dough starter, stewed rabbit with dumplings, succotash, and cucumber pickles the old-fashioned way (but with an electric or gas stove, not a wood-burning one).

Francesca has tried a couple of the recipes, and truthfully they are not good eatin’. But the book is a wonderful read.

Happy reading!

xoxo, Francesca

The Big Question: Now with More Criminal Insanity

Whenever I think of, or worse see a pair of split flutter sleeves –those horrible embiggening bias-cut creations that make my arms look like something between a deranged flapper and a holiday ham– I want to murder the person responsible for inventing them, likewise their friends and all their relations and then when all is said, done, and buried I would take great joy in singing a variety of comic songs on their collective freshly turned graves.

That’s healthy, right?

What sartorial staple –the handkerchief hem, puff sleeves, whathaveyou– would YOU like to see die a quick, painful death?

The Skirt Marathon for the Teenage Girl!

A young internet friend writes:

I absolutely adore your blog. I’m fifteen, and I need some cute skirts that I can wear to school this winter. I’m looking for something that hits around my knee, maybe a little above to wear with tights and flats, or heels. I have pretty short legs, and I can never find skirts that will actually fit me. They’re all made for tiny little stick girls! (BTW, I’m around a size 10 to 14.)
Can you help me?
Thank you so so much


Just 15 and already superfantastic! She is eschewing jeans and baggy sweatpants for skirts! Heels to school! Francesca is so proud (and, a leetle beet scared).

This question gives Francesca an opportunity to post links to many, many different sites which sell clothes for the non-tiny-little-stick-girls! So, when clicking, please look around for other things you might like at the same store.

Francesca asked Emily a few questions and learned that we must search for petite sizes or skirts that run short, which are suitable for the artsy high school girl (though Francesca is wondering how to reconcile “artsy” with “heels” and “cute”), and which are under $75. Oh, and dear Emily does not like denim! Wow! This girl is a diamond to be treasured.

First, Francesca, who is also a Short Girl, advises Emily to learn to sew or to make friends with a nice seamstress who can bring up hems and take seams in, for a perfect fit. These things are quick and inexpensive to do, and make a big difference in how things look. This plan frees Emily to try all sorts of skirts which may in the past have been certainly too long. Of course, skirts with interesting detailing at the hem cannot be shortened without disturbing the pattern, so this plan works best with skirts that are all of one color or one continuous print.

Unless otherwise noted, all of the skirts which Francesca is about to suggest will have to be shortened by Emily. Some also start at size 14, so they might have to be taken in, too. But! The prices are low enough that Emily can bring several skirts to a seamstress and have them altered, without going over budget! And this way, you know they will be exactly the length which Emily wants.

We start with flirty skirts from Torrid.com:

Red plaid pleated skirt

Please, leave the patterned stockings at home!

Black pinstripe pleated mini-skirt(which would fall longer on the Petite girls)

And now, from Lane Bryant, a fuschia floral-print gored skirt, very psychadelic meets conservative! Some of the pattern would be lost upon shortening, but Francesca thinks this would be OK.

Above-the-knee pencil skirt from JC Penney, very pleasing to Francesca!

If Emily is willing to try longer skirts, there are several very cute, and very artsy, styles at Alight.com.

For example, here is their tie-dye skirt (available in 4 colors, starting at size 14; easily shortened or taken in)

And, for days when you want to look more conservative because you have a meeting with your stodgy math teacher, who is a throwback to the 50’s himself, here is an adorable number, called the Urban Renewal skirt, which can be shortened in a wink:

And SWAK Designs also has several mid-length skirts which Emily might like. However, Francesca worries that the smallest size available there, 14/16, would be much too large for the teenage Emily who wears up to 14. But I mention it in case you wish to try.

Believe it or not, the Home Shopping Network has lots of great skirts in a range of sizes. Just go to HSN.com and do a keyword search for “skirt.” The prices are mostly higher than for the skirts above, but often there are clearance discounts.

This skirt at HSN is on clearance sale and would come to Emily’s knees, since it is not a Petite size:

And this orange dessert is on deep clearance:

Finally, this would not be a post by Francesca without a skirt from Talbots. Here, from their online outlet (73 percent off!), is an adorable skirt available in petite and women’s petite (and in brown)

Happy shopping!

xoxo, Francesca

Good Cop, Cheap Cop

I get it. I’m the bad cop. Francesca is the nice, clean-cut Officer of The Peace, while I am the one who uses vermouth as aftershave and will violate your Miranda rights the second the Chief turns his back. I’m comfortable with that now, so in that bad-cop vein I am going to ask –nay, beg– a favor.

Please do not be a skank for Halloween.

I know, I know, if we have learned anything from the movie Mean Girls it’s that “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” but please, before you pour yourself into a costume whose theme is “naughty” followed by any typically female profession and/or Harry Potter character (and school girl, do I even need to say anything the school girl? What’s creepier: wanting to look like a ho-some version of a 15-year old or wanting people to want to bang that ho-some version of a 15-year old?) think about what you’re doing and why.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to dispel the “all big girls are desperate” myth when confronted with seventy three plus-size stewardesses inviting you to “fly the friendly thighs” in the span of a night

How does your self esteem figure into all this? How much of this is about wanting to feel sexy? If it’s about feeling sexy and you want to take The Gals out for the evening, why not do it on a random Tuesday night? If you want to look like a tramp, don’t wait for the one day of the year it’s “OK” to reveal what the Good Lord and four pieces of duct tape hath wrought (you do know how to make a duct tape push-up bra, right?) OWN your trampitude, and good on you for doing it.

Just please, don’t save it for Halloween and those cheap, tacky costumes. Truly, single-ply PVC is not a good look for anyone and sad to say, no matter how incredible the rack or bangin’ the butt, if you are a plus-size girl odds are you are just going to end up looking like a hot, sweaty sadomasochistic haggis and no one wants to see that.

Except maybe this guy:

Costume ideas for the fabulous plussie are forthcoming. As for me, I won’t just settle for Superfantastic, I’m going for all out Divine!